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John DeShazier: Saints hold intense practice in searing heat

Live run drill, 2-minute work big part of Saturday's workout

Photos of the Saints' scrimmage at Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on August 5, 2017.

The outright Black and Gold Scrimmage may be a thing of the past, but the New Orleans Saints are doing enough in training camp practice to form a respectful replica.

For instance, Saturday's live run drill at the Oschner Sports Performance Center was every bit as intense as any drill from previous years, complete with a level of heat – 84 degrees, 95-degree heat index for the last hour of practice – that posed another barrier to overcome in addition to the hitting.

"We're getting more of the scrimmage in some of these periods," Coach Sean Payton said Saturday. "We went live team run today, we'll get more good work tomorrow night at Tulane (the Saints will practice Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Yulman Stadium). But no official, big, intra-squad scrimmage."

Whatever the label, the Saints are getting in the work.

"A few more guys cramping, but overall, I think that's what you're looking for in training camp," Payton said. "You're pushing them. But overall, I thought the periods went back and forth a little bit. There were a few that were sluggish."

The tackle-to-the-ground run drill didn't seem to fall into that category, one of the highlight plays being running back Darius Victor (5 feet 8, 227 pounds) crashing through a hole on the right side and pounding through, and over, linebacker Jonathan Walton (6-0, 230).

A day earlier, Payton lauded Victor's strength and balance, and the fact that he doesn't give defenders much of a target to hit. All of that was on display during his run, and both units totally were engaged in the live drill.

"I thought our first group defense did a good job," Payton said. "We were working a lot of our stretch plays. We'll watch the tape and be able to look at why a play had success or didn't. But you can get into maybe a false sense of where a ball might be stopped and when you tackle, which is part of football, then you get an idea of exactly where the ball stopped."

Practice ended with another live drill, in the two-minute offense.

"Guys were fighting through some of the heat," Payton said. "The point we made last night (in the team meeting) is if you really paid close attention to our game, at the end of every half, in the end of the game, win or lose you're defending or you're in a two-minute.

"It's a critical part of our game right now and it's something that we've got to be better at on both sides of the ball. You can point to last season where there are a handful of our games, we're in that situation. Today was a good start to it."

It added to what has been a taxing camp, offensive tackle Khalif Barnes said.

"I think every practice has been physical and every practice has been draining, especially with the conditioning and running afterward," Barnes said. "The biggest part about it is when you do it later on in the day, when it gets a little warmer.

"That last part – that two-minute drill, going in the red zone against the defense when things were live and you're able to tackle guys to the ground – and then when you put a competitive edge on it, like the loser has to run an extra three gassers or whatever, those are the things that you need and those are the things that we're trying to build upon. That will get you carried through the season.

"Because somewhere during the season, five or six games are going to come down to the last two minutes, some of those games are coming (down) to the trenches and they're going to be in the fourth quarter when you're tired. The better you can do it here, the easier it's going to be in the game."

Photos of drills and warmups at Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on August 5, 2017.

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